Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 27 December 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Pandemic Fall of Rome

Game: Pandemic Fall of Rome

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Designer:  Matt Leacock & Paolo Mori

Year: 2018

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Pandemic. Pandemic is many people's first experience of cooperative gaming and it has had a big part in defining that genre of tabletop gaming. You can now buy the very attractive looking 10th anniversary edition, but if you're looking for something a little different, then Pandemic: Fall of Rome is one of a number of slight variations that have been released in the last couple of years. Pandemic Fall of Rome is the first box with the label "Survival Series" - seemingly sparking a new range of games that might not all be about disease.

Pandemic: Fall of Rome is set in the time of the Roman Empire. A weakened military has left your borders open to invasion from a myriad of forces such as the Anglo-Saxons, Goths, Vandals, and Huns. In order to defend Rome, you will march through the land recruiting armies, fortifying cities and fending off the invading hordes.

Pandemic: Fall of Rome follows the same basic formula as Pandemic, with a few new twists that really align with the Roman Empire theme. It follows a typical cooperative game formula; Each turn has a player phase where the active player gets 4 actions, followed by a 'bad stuff' phase where cards are revealed to represent invasions on the board - where the 5 different forces spread around the map. In each player turn, you can move around the board, following the indicated marching or sailing routes. You can establish forts which will then enable you to recruit legions. Legions are used to power your army. When attacking invading forces, you roll a number of dice equal to the number of legions you have and the dice results will determine whether invading forces die or your legions die, or if you activate the special ability of your army. When armies are invading, they advance in a very thematic way towards Rome, only advancing from cities that they already have control over. Too many armies in one city will cause a chain reaction sacking, where forces invade all adjacent cities. Periodic revolts will also make your life more difficult. If you clear or align with all 5 invading armies before all confidence has been lost, then you will win!

The changes implemented in Pandemic: Fall of Rome certainly make it different enough from the original. I also think that they step up the game complexity a little, so it wouldn't be the first cooperative game I introduce to some friends. The additional complexity comes from a couple of factors including the movement of invading forces, that make it a little more challenging to identify risks. The recruiting of legions, which is a whole new action in the game and the push-your-luck aspects of attacking, which mean that you need to take slightly more calculated risks. I've really enjoyed how close many of our games have come in the last few turns and how we've really had to solve an interesting puzzle to figure out whether we can win the game. However, if you're likely to be annoyed by losing the game on a final dice roll, then this might not the right edition of Pandemic for you!

We've played every edition of Pandemic, and Pandemic: Fall of Rome is probably the most thematic version we've played. Although it's slightly fiddly, the way that the invasions work is really clever. The sacking of Rome is also an end game loss condition, so you are not only concerned about the cities on three cubes, but you also want to take care of the individual cubes that are on the cities adjacent to Rome. This can be a lot of ground to cover in a two-player game, but with the special abilities each player has, as well as the ease of sailing long distances around the map, you can still cover all of your bases.

With a huge range of Pandemic games to choose from, it's difficult to figure out which game might be the best for you. If you've only ever played the original, have no interest in legacy games, and are looking for a step up, then Pandemic: Fall of Rome would be a good choice. For us, having played both legacy games, Pandemic is the most played franchise in our collection. Our previous favourite was Pandemic Iberia, and Fall of Rome is just slightly below that in terms of how much we enjoy it. I'm not sure how many Pandemic games we need to keep, but I'm still really enjoying trying all of the different variants on the game and hope they do keep coming up with new ways to keep this classic alive for us and other fans.

For the Yellow Meeple, Pandemic:Fall of Rome is a 7.5/10.

Pandemic: Fall of Rome was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £46.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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